History of the TOMS

TOMS_4xAlthough the exact origin of the TOMS (Torrens Old Members) – the moment of conception, so to speak – is lost in the mists of time, enough can be recalled to provide a fairly accurate account.

First and last the TOMS was the brainchild and personal hobby-horse of Jack Bollen, legendary rower and coach for Torrens and the state of South Australia. In his long time at Torrens Jack held just about every office in the Club up to and including the Presidency.

Probably in the late 1960s or early ’70s, Jack Bollen, no longer competing or coaching actively, together with a few other club stalwarts met for an paddle on the Torrens each Sunday morning, followed by a few drinks around the club room table. Names that come to mind from those early times are Frank Lodge, Doug Sanders, Godfathers 1 and 2 (a.k.a. Pio and Remo Morelli), Ray Carter and Vin Bacciarelli. One remembers that this was decades before the modern-day concept of Masters Rowing, although there was a rather indolent Union of Old Oarsmen in existence at the time.

This nucleus of Torrens old boys gradually accumulated other ex-rowers looking in some way to continue in the sport, until a TOMS eight would be seen on the water most Sunday mornings. From time to time, the growing number of TOMS with their wives would hold fund raising barbeques in various members’ gardens, with food and drinks around Remo and Maureen Morelli’s swimming pool especially favored. Each year, permanent TOMS’ spokesman Bollen after a suitable, if lengthily, speech would present the Club’s administration with a useful donation as a result of the TOMS’ efforts.

Jack’s tragic death rather reduced the impetus behind the TOMS and the advent of the competition oriented and popular Masters Rowing did not help. Over the years numbers gradually declined, although to this day a fitful group of old members still row most Sundays.

Continuity of the TOMS’ concept has been ensured in recent times, however, thanks to the tireless efforts of Grantley Baldwin. Each Wednesday morning before business hours, a group of younger (with some exceptions!) old boys put an eight in the water for a “few weirs”. A smaller group often still row on Sunday mornings. In the TOMS’ tradition, this expanding (in all senses of the word!) group from time to time, also assist the Club financially with various projects.

One cannot but think that Jack Bollen and his old comrades would be more than pleased to see the TOMS in its latest guise, continuing to add another dimension to the life of the Torrens Rowing Club.